Kid Approved, Family-Friendly Marketing

There are two new people in the world! We are thrilled to congratulate our very own Erin Mills on the birth of her twins. Oakley and Sawyer came into the world on Thursday, January 26. To celebrate their cuteness (pictured below), we figured we’d take a moment to look at our favorite campaigns — MAG-produced and otherwise — that put kids and families front and center.

iSPY 20th Anniversary

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Scholastic’s hit book series, I SPY, MAG invited a gaggle of students to play a larger-than-life game of I SPY in Times Square. When the kids arrived, they discovered the twelve-foot tall, hidden-object-laden birthday cake that we’d built at the crossroads of the world. The special event was followed by a book signing and cake serving by Author Jean Marzollo. When the students returned to school, their library was 500 books larger.

Similac: The Mother ‘Hood

In 2015, this video took the parenting community by storm. In it, baby formula titan, Similac, takes the age-old but undying breast-vs.-bottle controversy head on by mocking parental judgmentalism in all its forms. Mom vs. Dad, Part-Time vs. Stay-At-Home, Disposable vs. Reusable — this video neutralizes every major ideological debate in parenting by making us laugh and putting the babies first.

Bounty’s Quicker Picker Upper Games

In honor of Bounty’s partnership with three-time gold medal winner, Allyson Felix, MAG challenged families to a virtual race against her. In addition to that green screen sprint, our Quicker Picker Upper Games encouraged parents and children to compete in a variety of cleaning-themed races and distributed more than a thousand rolls of Bounty to attendees. New York and Chicago have never been cleaner.

Evian’s Baby Campaigns

Mineral water stalwart, Evian, has had so much success with baby-oriented campaigns that it changed its slogan to match in 2012. “Live Young,” the brand now proclaims. Their commitment to cuteness began in 2009 when their record-breaking, YouTube-exclusive “Roller Babies” video scored them more than 25 million views in less than two months. In 2011, they released a video entitled “Baby Inside Me,” and, in 2013, Evian gifted us the video above, “Baby & Me,” which scored 50 million views in its first week. We’re equally grateful for the “Baby & Me” mobile app that followed, allowing us to share baby-fied versions of ourselves with friends, family, and, of course, clients.

The Modern Family Corn Maze

To drive tune-in to Modern Family, MAG invited families to enjoy immersive corn mazes at The Grove in LA and Union Square in New York. Once they’d made it through the labyrinths, more than 7000 consumers hung around our branded pumpkin patches to play Modern Family trivia, pose for goofy photos, and enjoy an augmented reality experience.

GoldieBlox and the Princess Machine

In February 2014, GoldieBlox became the first small business to air a commercial during the Superbowl network telecast. The video brings us three adorable toddlers who transform their girly toys into an enormous Rube Goldberg machine. The contraption’s purpose? To change the channel from a mind-numbing variation on the Beastie Boys’ “Girls” to a cartoon about a female engineer. The ad, which was created to articulate GoldieBlox’s commitment to promoting science and engineering among young girls, earned 8 million views in its first week. Plus an endorsement from Ellen DeGeneres.

Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus poses with the entire class from the United Nations International School.

25th Anniversary of The Magic School Bus

In order to celebrate the silver anniversary of its hit book series, The Magic School Bus, Scholastic asked MAG to produce a one-of-a-kind experience for local second-graders. We brought the kids down to Manhattan’s Pier 84 to witness the iconic bus voyaging down the Hudson River on a barge. The New York Aquarium’s Dr. Kafka teamed up with our MC — playing “Scuba Sam” — to offer the students a hands-on lesson about the creatures that live in the Hudson River. At the end of the event, we opened a treasure chest to reveal a huge collection of books and announced that the class would be going home with the complete Magic School Bus series.

We’re more excited than ever to dive into family-friendly activations now that our in-house focus group of newborns has grown by two. Whether you’re planning an event of your own or you’re here just-because, we’re grateful that you stopped by to celebrate with us.

The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to chat about your next kid-centric, family friendly campaign.

Experiential Marketing: What to Expect in 2017

To welcome in the New Year, we’ve put together our predictions for all the ways that experiential marketing is going to evolve in 2017.

More Innovation

If you’re having trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality, you might be losing your mind. Or you might just be well read. In 2017, tech gurus are going to halve the gap between science and science fiction.

We’re already 3D-printing jet engine parts, and 3D-printed organs are beginning to reach clinical implementation. Virtual and Augmented Reality techs have become so advanced and so diverse that we recently published a clarification of which technology is which. Uber’s using autonomous cars and toddlers are coding robots. Meanwhile LG is prepping LED screens that you can roll up and stick into an overnight bag, and, in January, SpaceX will host a hovercraft race.

These innovations will continue to have a tremendous influence within the B2B event space as conferences and exhibitors explore new ways to wow attendees. We anticipate that brands will discover novel utilizations of augmented, virtual, and mixed realities. They will aim to cater to millennials with interactive and projection mapped displays. And they’ll break through the noise with disruptions that fuse the brilliant with the ridiculous.

But even more important than the New Year’s innovations in tech will be its innovations in format. In 2017, we’ll see the continued evolution and distention of the unconference.

The unconference harnesses the power of crowdsourcing to create collaborative sessions specific to the interests of participants. In 2017, more programming will be scheduled on-site and sessions will become a locus of conversation instead of presentation. Conferences will spotlight the personal strengths and needs of the attendees rather than the agendas of conference organizers and keynote speakers. We’ll also see new approaches to conference space as well — whether that means taking conferences outside or encouraging networking around interactive installations.

But for all the stylistic innovations we’re going to see in B2B events, content will always take precedence over form.

Inspired by Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room, GitHub brought this interactive element to their user conference, GitHub Universe. Attendees were invited into the entirely white space and encouraged to decorate the room with colored stickers. Photo courtesy of Event Marketer.

Increased Branded Content

An event is only as good as the content it delivers. That’s why you’re going to be reading a lot about event capture in 2017. We’ll all be exploring better ways to transform live experiences into immersive offline/online combos that amplify the reach of campaigns exponentially.

Toward the end of 2016, the tech industry sent us a host of exciting new toys to play with in the New Year. To give Snapchat Stories some healthy competition, Instagram and Twitter launched “Stories” and “Moments” features respectively. Instagram also added an Events Channel that will collect videos from major events and put them in front of the users most likely to be interested. But perhaps the most exciting innovations came from Snapchat: in addition to offering improved metrics, Snapchat released On-Demand Geofilters, and Snapchat Spectacles. We also expect to feel reverberations from Pokemon Go, which popularized and gamified mobile-powered Augmented Reality.

In 2017, we’re going to see event planners exploring creative ways to harness these new technologies for improved content quality and reach. But the biggest shift won’t come from the megacorps, it’ll come from the little guys: Influencer amplification is going to become the new standard for cascading content because brands that partner with influencers are able to target consumers with near pinpoint accuracy. Influencers’ hyper-specific brand advocacy far outshines any messaging that’s crafted to resonate across broad, traditional demographics.

New Tentpoles

Even if we’re expecting broad-demographic strategies to phase out, don’t expect major tentpole events to disappear any time soon. People are still going to be watching the Superbowl in 2017 and Comic-Con is only growing. The same goes for SXSW, CES and Sundance. These have always been great places to activate and that’ll be no different in 2017.

But traditional tentpoles won’t have the stage to themselves anymore. Just as we expect to see influencers in the spotlight, we’re also anticipating that smaller events will be moving down-center. That’s why we’re always on the lookout for niche events that are seeing remarkable growth. The Summit Series will partner with any brand that shares its ideals. Likewise with the Aspen Ideas Festival. Athletic brands might do well to activate at a Ragnar relay race, women’s brands at The Yellow Conference.

The brands at these “tentpole boutiques” have been able to engage niche audiences face-to-face. Rather than promoting general awareness, they’ve focused on building deeper alliances with smaller communities.

From giving conference attendees the scheduling reins, to partnering with community influencers and boutique events, 2017 is going to be the year of getting personal. Your brand’s going to want to meet the consumers where they live, where they work, and where they play.

The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to discuss where experiential marketing fits in your 2017 strategy.

360° Video vs. Augmented vs. Virtual vs. Mixed Reality

Wrapping Our Heads Around Other Realities

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality technologies are quickly gaining technical and popular momentum, as is 360° Video. And while the law of accelerating returns would suggest that ubiquity can’t be far off, these technologies still have the novelty to attract and wow consumers.

So if a brand wants to draw focus, align itself with innovation, and give consumers first-hand experiences that literally defy reality, they need to begin by picking the right alternate reality to work with.

Picking the right reality

When we’re determining which technology will best serve your brand, we like to begin with a question: Do you want to alter your reality or be transported to an entirely new one?

For instance, 360° Video headsets shut out our surrounding environment and transport us to locations that were shot in 360 degree video. Unlike yesterday’s videos, which only allowed us to look where the camera looks, this technology puts the user in control, allowing consumers to look into the eyes of the people on camera or turn around to see what they see. But in 360° Video you can only pivot around a fixed position.

Virtual Reality, which also shuts out the present environment and transports us elsewhere, goes a step further: it allows us to create computer-generated fictional worlds and interact with them as though they were real. Go for a stroll. Spill coffee. Slay monsters. The better the technology, the deeper and more realistic the immersion.

We utilized Augmented Reality technology during Microsoft’s CES 2016 activation to enable customers to virtually go in store and view merchandising solutions.

Unlike 360° Video and Virtual Reality tech, Augmented Reality devices don’t shut out the real world — they alter it. AR generates two and three-dimensional graphics and overlays them across your physical environment, as though you were looking through a graffitied window. Augmented Reality devices — which could utilize LED screens, mobile phones, or hi-tech glasses — might make your text messages seem to hover above your kitchen counter or they might reveal a zombie who’s also chilling at your bus stop.

Mixed Reality is like Augmented Reality 2.0. The visuals created by Mixed Reality devices blend more organically into the real world by creating spatially aware holograms that can intelligently interact with the objects around you. A little elephant can walk on your desk, robots can blast holes in the wall behind you, and everything can be interacted with using gestures, creating an even deeper sense of magic.

It’s worth noting that Mixed Reality is the emerging technology of the alternate realities. At the moment, there’s only one device on the market — Microsoft’s HoloLens — and it’s only available to developers. Luckily, we happen to know said developers.

Wait, so which one is the best for my brand?

Well, to begin with, it’s important to remember that you can’t go wrong. Because alternate-reality devices are still cost-prohibitive for most consumers, consumers are thrilled to interact them. And, for many of them, this will be their first exposure to these gadgets.

Still, different circumstances call for different technologies. To return to our springboard question: it’s all about whether your brand will do better by enhancing the consumer’s reality or by changing it altogether.

Consider your brand’s promise.
Brands that promise to enhance the daily lives of consumers might do better with Augmented or Mixed Realities, which elevate mundane experiences. For instance, a clothing brand might use AR to show consumers how new outfits would look on them or a Hollywood studio might elevate the traditional movie poster by merging a fictional world with our real one.

On the other hand, brands that promise to dramatically change consumers’ circumstances might go further with Virtual Reality and 360° Video. A travel brand can tease consumers with 360° Video of an exotic destination and video games fare especially well in Virtually Reality.

Consider activation logistics.
Because AR experiences simply layer onto the real world, consumer interactions tend to move more quickly and require a smaller footprint. By contrast, consumers who enter into a Virtual Reality world often need more time to get equipped and become situated in the environment. Because of the extra time, your footprint may have to account for consumers waiting in line. Not to worry though, because lines look great in activation stills and sizzle reels, and they can attract the attention of additional consumers.

If consumers need to interact with a real-world product or if the brand wants to capitalize on the activation’s real-world location, Augmented Reality will work best. For identical experiences across multiple locations, 360° Video and Virtual Reality allow brands a more tactical option. In this 360° Video activation, consumers could visit Australia from any activation location.

Consider activation prep.
360° Video must be filmed on location, whereas VR, AR, and MR involve programmers and designers crafting the visuals with ones and zeroes. Some Augmented Reality experiences require static objects or images in the real world to trigger the alternate-reality event. We can fabricate these objects or select an activation location to act as the trigger.

Consider post-activation.
360° Videos can live online after an event. Users can watch them on YouTube or a brand’s website and even adjust the camera view for the full 360° experience, just as if they had been there on activation day. By contrast, for any of the other technologies, we’d capture video of consumer interactions on the day of the event. For instance, consumers could share video of their personal walkthrough of the Virtual Reality space.

Whatever the tech you use, we always ensure that it’s socially shareable, so that your activation continues returning dividends even after you’ve paid the bill.

Uh… I thought this article was supposed to make things simpler…?

True simplicity comes with the mastery of complexity. We’ve only scratched the surface here for each technology’s radically different budget, timeline, and feasibility considerations.

But you shouldn’t be worrying about all that anyway. That’s why we didn’t even bother talking about motion tracking, haptic feedback, or the virtuality continuum. We have experts in all that so that you don’t have to be one.

If you’re looking for guidance on how best to harness the power of alternate-realities to enhance prestige, amplify awareness, and drive sales, then all you have to do is ask.

(And here’s a handy-dandy link we put here for just that purpose.)

The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to explore implementing experiential tech into your next activation.

Favorite MAG Moments of 2016

What better way to round up a year at the michael alan group than to ping the crew and find out their favorite moments. Without further ado, here are 2016’s top moments, straight from the team.

“When our office finally agreed to push the Keurig aside to get the real deal. I think everyone agrees that having a coffee pot in the office really upped the ante. I’ve actually seen people standup & cheer when they hear someone just brewed – and yes, when I say people I’m talking about myself.”
Lenetta Pesotini, Account Manager

“When we tried to get pancakes at IHOP on International Pancake Day but there was a really long line and so we went to a diner across the street and still got our delicious fluffy pancakes. New York City is incredible in that way, sometimes the destination you are heading is not always where you end up but usually it is just as good or better!”
Heather Hamilton, Account Executive

“In the Staffing World, once in a blue moon, there’s a day when multiple activations fall on the same date. One of those this year was Thursday, June 16th. Besides activations in Atlanta, Chicago, DC, and LA, we also had three major ones in NYC which had a total staff of 130 working at simultaneously. So, the fact that it went pretty painless with the clients happy & the majority of the staff stepping up their game, it became one of my favorite MAG moments of the year.”
Marivic Tagala, Staffing Manager

“Getting a peak behind-the-scenes of the Tim Burton MoMA exhibit when the MAG Art Department attended the 99U Conference in May.”
David O’Neill, Art Director

Work Family

“My favorite MAG moment of 2016 began as a somber one… it was the morning after the election and a group of us were huddled in the conference room. On my way to work that morning, I felt very alone as I grappled with the unexpected outcome. But when my colleagues arrived, and we all assembled together – I was reminded that I am surrounded by a work family who shares in my fundamental beliefs and aspirations for our future. And for that, I felt truly blessed – and part of something very special.”
Erin Mills, Chief Operating Officer

“I love cracking open a new book, and it became even more fun when I was surrounded by coworkers diving into the same story. MAG Book Club was the best! Something I’m hoping to read in the coming year? Weird Ideas That Work by Robert I. Sutton.”
Melanie Slattery, Graphic Designer

“The Mountain Dew GUTS Aggro Crag! If you thought NYC had GUTS…This years Mountain Dew Aggro Crag Nickelodeon GUTS throwback challenge proved just that! An exact replica of the famous Aggro Crag mountain was erected in NYC and competitors of all walks of life came, conquered, and competed against one another over an epic match of king of the hill! My favorite moment of the event was seeing how all competitors celebrated atop the Crag, whether losing or winning, exemplifying great sportsmanlike NYC conduct! It was an unmatched competitive and celebratory moment in my 2016!”
Mark DiConzo, Project Manager

“When a bunny showed up at our food truck event!”
Molly Appel, Account Executive

Wedding Bells and Birthday Surprises

“When my fantastic co-workers threw me (and my co-brides in the office) a surprise bridal shower complete with a fathead of our my fiancee and a custom prize wheel. When we pitch that people really love prize wheels, we mean it. It’s all about the prize wheel.”
Elizabeth Jones, Senior Vice President

“Attending Eva’s wedding and seeing her walk down the aisle! Just one of three beautiful MAG brides that tied the knot this year!”
Rachel Jenkins, Account Executive

“When the office surprised me with an Apple Watch for my birthday.”
Jonathan Margolis, President and CEO

“Scheming up and sending out a fake brainstorm to surprise Jon with his gift.”
Eva Chung, Operations Manager

A Merry Celebration

“Definitely the MAG holiday party because it’s always fun to see your team in an environment outside of work. Secret Santa reveals were great because just when you were on to something and you thought you knew who, you’re always wrong! Everyone’s poems were ON POINT and of course the food and drinks were also bomb. :)”
Melissa Mach, Junior Account Executive

“Being a part-time MAGger, I really loved being with everyone at a holiday lunch because I don’t get to hang with everyone as much as I would like!”
Betsy Margolis, Special Events Coordinator

“Secret Santa! Getting cute notes and presents left on my desk.”
Devendra Singh, Graphic Designer

Last, But Never Least

“When Eva introduced us to Butterfinger cups. Life changing stuff.”
Amy Spielholtz, Senior Account Director

Event Marketing Upgrades: Decor Edition

We’ve been planning and executing productions and events for over 15 years. This is the first installment in our series on Small Changes, Big Gains, where we explore 10 simple ways to elevate your event.

Lighting the Room

Event spaces that look great in sunlight often lose their charm when the stars come out. For all of its subtlety, quality lighting is essential for creating just the right aesthetic. But too often a lighter event can also mean a lighter wallet. That’s why we decided to lead off with three simple ways to turn up the ambient light:

1. With Fire: Humans have been using fire as a light source for… well, a while. But since Thomas Edison, firelight has become dramatically less common. And, as a consequence, it’s also become dramatically more charming. So consider candlelight to price down and class up your next event.

2. With Bulbs: Speaking of Thomas Edison, the light bulb may have been a technical marvel at the turn of the century, but today it’s a symbol of elegant simplicity. If Smoky The Bear gives you grief over candlelight, you can still bypass elaborate lighting rigs by suspending bulbs from the ceiling. The less embellished the better. And bistro-style string lights yield equal the charm for half the hassle.

3. With Video Projections: So far we’ve taken advantage of historic (and pre-historic!) solutions. But new technologies can often offer equal efficiency. Save big and light well by directing the glow of video projectors against reflective surfaces. This is particularly effective in tents.

Believe it or not, the entire space for the Pinnacle Cinnabon 24 Hour Brunch was filled with white walls. Video projections brought the party to life.

Adorning the Walls

When brands look to make an event space their own, they often begin by filling wallspace. But signage, art, and drapes can consume resources that are better spent wining, dining, and entertaining guests. So how do we dress the walls efficiently without compromising on style?

1. With Clings: Wall and mirror clings can give your space character without crowding your footprint or cramping your style. Simple, versatile, inexpensive, and attractive — what’s not to love?

2. With Balloons: Wait. Hear us out. Balloons are actually just as flexible in function as they are in form. We’ve seen them floated to the roof as elegant ceiling décor, repurposed as step-and-repeat paneling, and bunched together as colorful accent pieces. They look great, cost pennies, and leave guests marveling at your ability to make beauty from nothing.

3. With Lights: To enhance the drama of your décor, consider uplighting the walls with rich, candy-crush colors. Or, if your event palate is more subdued, consider gels on the white-to-gold spectrum. We also love uplighting walls because doing so can provide plenty of ambient light, assuaging two of our concerns at once.

Setting the Tables

And then, of course, there’s the task of impressing your guests when they get to the table. It’s always good to have strategies that are both affordable and chic.

1. With Menus: A visually-appealing branded menu with quality copy gives guests something tangible that they can handle and interact with. And if its look is in sync with the event’s other design elements, the menu can reinforce and enhance your chosen aesthetic.

2. With Mason Jars: You probably don’t need us to tell you that mason jars are coming back in a big way. Not only do they combine value and utility, but they also speak to your brand’s cultural awareness. Plus, they’re extraordinarily versatile. You can load them up with wildflowers for centerpieces or fill them with lemonade. Top that with a lemon wedge and a fancy straw and everyone will think you’re Martha Stewart.

3. With Linens: Even when the plates and their contents disappoint you, upgraded linens can seriously upgrade elegance. And if next-tier tablecloths don’t seem feasible, a simple improvement in the quality of napkins can achieve the same effect. As with the menu, napkins are one of the few items at the table that guests actually spend time handling.

The after party following the USOC 2016 Team USA Awards incorporated several items on this list, including candles, custom menus, and quality linens.

The Golden Rule

If you’ve been keeping count, you’ll notice that we’re 1 solution short of our promised 10. That’s because we’ve been saving the best for last. Here’s our golden rule for enhancing quality while avoiding sticker shock.

With a theme: When it comes to event planning, no single element can have as large an impact as theme. And we’re not even talking about the content of your theme here. Whether you pick thrifting as your theme to match the moment or go with black-and-white to match your guests’ apparel, what matters most is coherence. If every element — lights, walls, table, menu, entertainment, and beyond — speaks clearly to your theme, your event will look great. Plus, it will guarantee success when it comes to the real purpose of the event: communicating your message.

The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to chat about upgrading decor at your next event.

A Comprehensive Gift Guide for Event Producers and Designers

The holidays have arrived! We’re ecstatic about the music, the lights, and most certainly the food, but shopping for presents can sometimes be a bit of a stress. While we can’t exactly compile gift ideas for your friends and family, we’re quite the experts on what to gift event professionals! We’re positive you’ll find something perfect for any event prof in your life.

Desk Necessities

When they’re not scoping out a venue or onsite for the big event, event producers spend a fair amount of time at their desks. Why not help them spruce up their home away from home?

  • Coffee Warming Coaster
    Ever been so focused that, next thing you know, your fresh cup of coffee is suddenly lukewarm and less than delicious? Event people know. And they’ll be ecstatic to receive a gift that keeps their caffeine at the tastiest temperature.
  • Bubble Wrap Calendar
    It’s no secret, working in events can be stressful. What better way to relieve stress than by popping some bubble wrap? With this calendar, anyone can find a calm moment of *POP* … zen.
  • Pocket Notebooks
    Between meetings, brainstorms, and unexpected ideas, producers and designers alike have a lot to scribble down. These Ames and Oates pocket journals are especially fantastic because, through their partnership with Pencils of Promise, 10% of every gift order is donated to provide children access to quality education.
  • Desk Plant
    A little green can go a long way to brighten up someone’s desk space. From succulents to ferns to fresh herbs, there’s bound to be the right plant for any event expert.
  • Votive Candles
    Still looking for relaxing desk accessories? Votive candles are the perfect fit for slowing down the day and taking a deep breath.
  • Silly Putty
    If desk decor is all covered, how about a more retro stress reliever? Silly Putty can be a calming distraction and a fun throw-back to younger years.

Office Upgrades

Every individual has personal desk preferences, but here are a few office upgrades the entire crew would enjoy.

  • In-House Masseuse
    Maybe clearing out space for a permanent masseuse is a little too much to ask for, but Soothe, the massage delivery app, makes it easy to bring the spa to the team.
  • In-House Manicures
    Similar to the above, a permanent nail artist may be a bit much, but Glamsquad will bring these services directly to the office door.
  • Fully Stocked Mini Fridge
    Winning a project. Wrapping up a successful event. Employee birthdays. Just because. All are valid reasons to have a fully-stocked mini fridge ready for any office celebration.
  • Branded Office Slippers
    On dreary days when half the team trudges in with soaked shoes, an office-wide supply of slippers would be a blessing. Even better? Bump it up a notch with some branding.
  • Cold Brew Keg
    Fuel the team (and save everyone a few dollars) with the office’s own cold brew keg.
  • T-Shirt Gun
    Every event professional has witnessed a t-shirt gun in action. And every event team has (probably) wanted their own.
  • Confetti Cannons
    For the crew that already has a fully stocked mini fridge, confetti cannons might just be the next-best addition to those office celebrations.


Onsite Essentials

The big event can often come with big stresses. Here are some gift ideas that just might save the day.

  • Discreet Phone Charger
    Ever been surprised by a 10% battery warning at 10AM? This sneaky bracelet comes to the rescue with an iPhone charger hidden inside.
  • Smart Water Bottle
    Event days are LONG days. Help someone ensure they’re still staying hydrated with a water bottle that tracks it for them.
  • Coffee Gift Card
    ’nuff said.
  • Tackle Box
    Event day survival kits are almost always a must, and a tackle box serves as the perfect container.
  • Laser Measure
    Being able to easily grab measurements and ensure event elements have the space they need is critical, and this little laser measure is just the tool for the job.
  • Multifunctional Phone Case
    Screwdrivers, tweezers, scissors, and a toothpick are all tools that could definitely come in handy onsite. With this, they’re all conveniently packed into a phone case.

Tech the Halls

The ever-exciting (and often quite pricey) tech section of the gift guide. But even event production experts have a fair share of gadgets they’d love to get their hands on.

  • Wireless Headphones
    Equipped with these, any event producer’s Beyonce-themed work session can always play on, even if they step away from their desk.
  • Bluetooth Speaker
    The right music for an event is essential, as are the tools for playing the tunes. With bluetooth, speakers can live anywhere. Plus, for every speaker sold, LSTN helps provide hearing aids to a person in need through the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
  • Wacom Cintiq Pro
    For the creative team at the agency, this Wacom product will help them take their craft to the next level.
  • Oculus Rift
    As an experiential marketing agency, we live in many different realities. So, naturally, much of our team wouldn’t mind a headset of their own.
  • Smartpen Transcriber
    Imagine wildly scribbled notes being automatically delivered to a device as clean digital text. Need we say more?
  • Portable Projector
    Meetings can take a team to an unpredictable array of offices. With this, no one needs to worry if the right presentation tools will be available for the big pitch.
  • Video Drone
    Have you seen drone captured footage? It’s SO COOL and incredibly useful for documenting big events.

Treat Yo Event Prof’

Because they deserve it. 🙂

  • Plane Tickets for a Getaway
    Event people often love to explore, so send them somewhere new and exciting. Trust us, they’ll probably return with a venue or two to bookmark for international events.
  • Spa Day
    There’s no going wrong with this classic treat.
  • Adult Coloring Books
    They’re insanely popular right now, and many people rave about the therapeutic benefits of coloring. Perhaps these should be in “Desk Necessities”?
  • Concert or Theatre Tickets
    Event professionals often have an insider’s understanding of what it takes to put on a show, so they’ll love the chance to indulge in being an attendee.
  • Drink of Choice
    This will vary by personal preference, but members of our team would love to be treated to margaritas, red wine, or Johnnie Walker Blue.

Pie in the Sky

While we asked our team for input on this entire list, these final suggestions seemed just a bit aspirational.

  • A Live, Rideable Dragon
    Probably not going to happen…
  • Police Escort Through Traffic When Running Late
    A presidentially inspired idea, but perhaps a more obnoxious alarm would be a cheaper alternative.
  • Bag of Cash
    It may be wishful thinking, but a bag of cash would never be a bad gift.

Do you have more gift ideas for the event producers and designers you know? Comment below!

We wish everyone a happy and bright holiday season. 🙂

15 Years of MAG and 15 Things to Be Thankful For

While we should of course aim to be thankful throughout the year, the holidays are almost like an outlook meeting reminder in case we find ourselves slacking. This holiday season brings an unusually profound reminder as MAG celebrates 15 years in business. As I look back on these remarkable 15 years, here’s what I’m particularly thankful for.

1. My Wife

She’s been through it all with me. From the day we started the company 15 years ago, she’s watched me grow both personally and professionally. Whether it’s preparing for a pitch, entertaining a client, or traveling for a project, she knows what it takes to run a business and supports me any way she can.

2. My Kids

To me there’s nothing more innocent than your child asking you questions about your day, hearing about what they did in school, and just laughing together. It’s so important to laugh, and my kids help me do that each and every day.

3. My Team

When I’m not at home I’m at work, and I couldn’t be prouder or luckier to surround myself with the most dedicated, talented, and kindest group of people I know. They come up with the most creative ideas, execute the most multifaceted projects, and throughout it all keep the clients happy, all of which deserves tremendous recognition.

4. Our Clients

We would not be where we are today if it were not for our clients. Some of which we’re fortunate to say we’ve had since the day we started 15 years ago. Our clients challenge us, push us to do things that haven’t been done before, and for that we couldn’t be more thankful. We all chose this profession because we didn’t want to do the same thing day in and day out. Our work and accomplishments reflect that.

5. My Mentors

I didn’t learn how to run a business in college. Hell, I’m still learning how to do it. But I couldn’t have gotten this far without the support from a handful of individuals who over the years were there for me whenever I needed them.

6. Culture Cookies

Sometimes you just need a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie. And fortunately for us, Culture cookies are just down the block.

7. Flywheel

Running a business is stressful (and eating too may cookies is fattening) so to counter both I try and lose some calories whenever I can. Flywheel’s been my burn of choice. When the lights go down and the music turns up, I sort of lose myself for 45 minutes.

8. Living in the City

I didn’t grow up in the city, and can’t say I ever imagined my kids would, but they are, and so far it seems to be working out. The city has so much to offer, and I push myself to ensure we take advantage of that as much as possible.

9. Guerrilla Marketing for Dummies

Several years ago the folks at Wiley Publishing asked if I wanted to write a book on the industry. It’s not something I ever thought about doing, but with the help of a former colleague, we did it. It’s since been translated into multiple languages and become part of curriculums in Universities around the world. I’m thankful I pushed myself for those 6 months and feel good each and every time I present a copy to a client.

10. The West Coast

Yes I love living in NY, but also love leaving it every once in a while. My trips to LA pretty much guarantee me great food, great weather, and a chance to connect with clients I may not see as often as I’d like.

11. Events like the United States Olympics Committee Team USA Awards

We’re fortunate enough to do a lot of great events for a variety of high profile clients and brands. Every so often we do one that truly touches me. Having the opportunity to produce the USOC Team USA Awards this past year allowed us the opportunity to honor those athletes that represented our country in the 2016 Olympic Games.

12. … or The New York Marathon

Sure, waking up at 4am can be tough, but not as tough as for those about to run 26.2 miles. We have the great pleasure of being one of many agencies that help produce one of the most amazing events in the country, perhaps the world. Each and every year I’m in awe of those that take to the streets and push themselves to cross 5 boroughs all the way to the finish line.

13. Trusted Vendors and Partners

There’s a point in a project when you can only do so much. You’ve created the concept, designed the experience, and secured the elements. Then you turn to trusted partners such as a printer, caterer, or premium supplier. Sometimes you have months to plan and other times you have only days. You appreciate them for being there each and every time.

14. Our Brand Ambassadors

Over the years we’ve gathered a database of thousands of Brand Ambassadors across the country (and lately across the globe as well). Sometimes it’s warm and sunny, sometimes it’s cold and blistery. Regardless of the conditions our teams stay “on” the entire time, and that never ceases to impress me.

15. The Next 15

It’s been an incredible 15 years. Countless brainstorms, proposals, pitches and productions. I can only imagine what the next 15 years will bring. Regardless, the years should be filled with health and happiness for all my family, friends, colleagues and clients.

How I Learned to Stop Hating and Love the Female Boss

I have an admission to make. I was once an anti female-bossian.

For those already confused, this is a (potentially grammatically incorrect) term I’ve coined for people who are opposed to female bosses. Based on a paltry two experiences at former companies, I had decided that female bosses are mercurial, illogical and (in some instances) capable of flat-out cruelty. Of course, the illogical one here was me.

I came to this “conclusion” based on two samples and luck; I had simply never had a male boss who had behaved this way, even though the examples of misbehaving male bosses are legion.

My reasoning was of course inane, but others share the sentiment. Though the reputation of female leaders is improving, a Gallup Poll conducted in 2014 shows that, when evaluating a new job, 33% of Americans prefer a male boss, 20% prefer a female boss and 46% have no preference. Okay, not terrible – but here is the data I found most surprising – while women are more likely than men to be “pro female-bossian,” women still prefer male bosses overall.


(Aside: Is this really 2016? The role of women in the workplace, the gap between how female leaders are expected to act and how they should act to get ahead and gender politics – all of this feels so far from where it should be. But I digress.)

Reader, I’m here to tell you how I learned to stop hating and love the female boss. How did this happen? Easy. I started working for a veritable utopia of female-bossianism: the michael alan group. While our fearless leader and CEO is a man, our COO, Senior Vice President and Vice President are all women and this has a massively positive effect on the work culture.


When producing and nurturing are part of the fabric of the organization, nobody’s losing by helping others. In fact, it pays off in dividends with the work we produce.

From my first week at MAG, when I had two weeks to produce a mobile tour, I was met with endless support from the entire company. Everyone, from the senior leadership on down, was tireless in answering my questions and providing me with helpful contacts, knowledge and advice. Nearly five years later, that continues to be the case. There is a genuine feeling of community here, and when you are faced with a task that you have no idea how to tackle, you know that a senior or a peer will always have time to help you.

The amazing part about this? Eventually you realize that you can solve the problems yourself, and help the next generation of MAGsters along.

While this ethos was originally instituted by our (male) CEO, Jonathan, I don’t see how this could be implemented so pervasively if we didn’t have so many women around us. I recognize that this is a dangerous line of thinking. As a recent NYTimes Op/Ed reminded us, in many places the expectation for women to be nurturing is a double edged sword – they must act this way, yet it is at their own expense.

But therein lies the secret sauce of MAG. When producing and nurturing are part of the fabric of the organization, nobody’s losing by helping others. In fact, it pays off in dividends with the work we produce.

Others have noticed. In the past year, our female leaders have been recognized for kicking butt at what they do and being awesome leaders. Our COO, Erin Mills, was recognized as one of Event Marketer’s Leading Women in Events, our Senior Vice President, Jill Brand, received Min’s Rising Star Award and our Vice President, Elizabeth Walker, received the Rising Star Award from Cynopsis Media.

From left to right, COO, Erin Mills, participates in Event Marketer’s Leading Women in Events Roundtable, Senior Vice President, Jill Brand, receives Min’s Rising Star Award, and Vice President, Elizabeth Walker, receives Cynopsis Media’s Rising Star Award.

I end this with this statement: I now recognize the error of my old beliefs. I am now strongly pro-female boss, and while other work environments may not experience the same utopian benefits, I’m optimistic that we will all get there regardless of the gender breakdown in the office. Until then, I will feel lucky to be surrounded by such amazing women each day when I come to the office. And so, as we celebrate women’s history month, I am reminded that here on West 38th Street, the sisterhood has carved out a slice of strength and support, and when that happens – we all profit.

Out of Office: Why It’s Important to Make Time for Professional Development

“Fresh & Profesh” is one of those lesser known mantras, but one you can hear often in the halls of MAG. We do experiential marketing, which means we are challenged to consistently be creative…or “fresh,” if you will. We have to be on the cutting edge, leveraging the newest emerging technologies, and consistently conjuring up that which you haven’t yet seen. Doing so is of course a ton of fun (I dare you to look at the crazy things we Google search), but it also requires consistent work to make sure we are always familiar with what is out there, what other brands are doing, and what the trades and blogs are talking about.

With all of that said, one of my personal favorite ways of remaining competitive is secret option D – Conferences and Events – all things “Professional Development.” Don’t roll your eyes just yet; I swear they can be valuable…and fun!

This past fall I had the pleasure of attending two conferences in one week. So since I’ve done the leg work for you, here’s a bit of a crash course on what I learned (hint: a lot of it doesn’t even have to do with the specific conference description!).

Learning is cool.

Unless you take continuing education classes (which I do and I recommend by the way), sitting in a room with the intention of just learning is not something grownups get to do very often. It’s a total shame, because learning about things that are interesting is really fun. I went to min’s Social Media Bootcamp at the Yale Club and heard experts from brands like Refinery29, Conde Nast Traveler, and Cosmopolitan and Seventeen Magazine speak about how the have grown their brands’ social media followings. I walked away with a serious tool kit of tips that I have already implemented since attending.

Interesting people attend conferences.

Events and conferences are a really great way to mix and mingle with like-minded and unlike-minded folks, both categories of which offer a lot of value. You’ll have a chance to talk to people who work in similar industries, as well as a whole host of others who don’t. This harkens back to the “fresh” I mentioned earlier. It can be extremely valuable to learn what others across a wide variety of businesses and industries are up to, as more often than not, you will find parallels to what you are doing as well. And of course, you just might meet some new biz contacts as well!

Fast Company's Innovation Festival

Fast Company’s Innovation Festival. Image courtesy of Fast Company.


Talk to strangers.

Sitting at a 60’’ round with 11 people you don’t know is hard enough. Add to that a self-conducted round table discussion and you’ve got yourself a sitch. This is exactly the circumstances in which I found myself at one of the conferences I attended; due to a shortage of moderators, table 26 was a sovereign entity amidst a sea of governed bodies. While at first I was a bit annoyed (really, I have to be at the awkward table with the painfully long pauses?!), it turned out to be a really fun exercise. All 12 of us stepped up to the plate (okay, maybe 10 out of 12), and the resulting dialogue was engaging and worthwhile and took many fascinating turns as we navigated a variety of industry topics. Not to mention it allowed us to employ those rusty social skills that don’t arise too frequently in adult life – the same ones necessary when selecting a lunch table in the cafeteria in middle school for the first time. In the end, I was pretty proud of myself and the whole of table 26 for putting ourselves out there.

Get out of your comfort zone.

This is sort of a summation of the above points, but an important one nonetheless. I remember when I bought the tickets to the conferences, I was super jazzed. But then a funny thing happened as the dates approached…my enthusiasm turned to dread as I pictured a day away from my computer, my Outlook, my Guy and Gallard salad at 1pm, and most importantly, a day of productivity. We all know the feeling – the one that says, “but a day outside of the office means I will fall behind!” Nah – it will springboard you forward – so go for it!

The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to chat about the experiential opportunities for professional development.

Tech It Out: Our Experience at EventTech ’15

When people think of event design, technology is not typically one of the first words that come to mind. Rather, the focus is placed on the physical design of the space (my personal favorite part of the process!), ensuring the event runs smoothly and creating a positive attendee experience. While these aspects are critical considerations, I can also tell you that in our rapidly evolving industry, the integration of technology is just as crucial. I had the privilege to attend Event Marketer’s EventTech Live in Las Vegas this November and was amazed at the event technologies that are new to the scene and existing platforms that keep continuing to grow.

Not only did I leave Las Vegas with a few unused $5 gambling chips from the Bellagio, but with an arsenal of event technologies to bring back to the MAG Team. With that, here are my favorite top 5 technologies I learned about and experienced at the event:

1. Virtual Reality

It’s here to stay and keeps getting better & better. Globacore is a leading company that has been at the forefront of Virtual Reality over the years.  They combine physical and digital elements to make users feel completely immersed in an activation or game… whether it be creating a digital environment like they did in Paperdude which brought the classic arcade game Paperboy to life with a real spin bike or by setting up their own camera rigs to create a reality experience from the ground up. It goes to show you that when it comes to incorporating Virtual Reality into a consumer experience, the sky can quite literally be the limit.

Oculus Rift + Kinect + KickR = Our Homage to Paperboy: PaperDude VR from Globacore on Vimeo.

2. Mobile Charging Stations

They might be a tried & true technology, but nonetheless one that continues to increase engagement at an activation and serves as a great value-add. You might have thought you’ve seen them all but Brightbox is leading the “charge” with their secure charging stations whereby a kiosk (freestanding, tabletop or wall mounted) featuring locked slots, branded elements and if desired, digital ads and survey integrations. Guests receive a card that they first swipe into the machine, open a slot, plug their phone in, lock it up and walk away leaving their phone to charge securely. Pretty much a no-brainer.


Image courtesy of

3. Social, Social, Social

It’s almost 2016, you can’t have a campaign without it. Not only do you need social, but you want to also measure it. Postano not only aggregates and measures social media data using user-generated content featuring hashtags and a brand’s own social accounts, but also turns that data into a visual display that can be featured at your event. With Postano, you get a front-and-back-end system and a variety of “add-ons” like an app you can use to moderate your display feed on-the-go, a function that can respond to your guests content asking for permission to repost their Instagram or Twitter post, and even integrate feeds on your existing company’s website.

4. Polling

What’s an event without information? Polling an audience is a tale as old as time and has been done in countless ways, but meetoo has upped the ante by creating an interactive polling and real-time messaging platform that can be incorporated directly into your meeting. Attendees have the option to download the meetoo app to participate or simply use the web app via URL link to get involved. Not only can polling be accomplished with endless setting options, but there is also a plug-in to incorporate live polling into PowerPoint directly making the process even more seamless. Gathering information just got even easier.


Image courtesy of

5. Networking

When it comes down to it, the reason we put on events is to elicit some level of networking, reaction and interaction.  We are always looking for ways to not only have the brand engage with the audience but to have the audience interact with each other. Enter Proxfinity, a platform that works to increase networking at events using back-end data gathered by attendees during registration or onsite. Proxfinity provides attendees with a physical device that attaches to your badge, uses algorithms to visually connect two nearby attendees (either by a common colored light that appears or displaying each other’s initials on the badge). The amount of uses are endless – use it to identify leads at events, training purposes, or to purely get your audience connected together.

There you have is everywhere and with good reason. When it comes to planning your event, you must really consider your client’s goals for the campaign to not only produce an aesthetically beautiful event but also to narrow down on which technologies would best elevate and maximize your event’s impact.  And with the help of innovative, progressive and ever-evolving partners like the ones above, I know the events we put on have a chance to reach that status and that works for me.


Author Allie Lewbel onsite at EventTech ’15. Header image courtesy of